Friday, March 19, 2010

CESTL Overview

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Department of Curriculum & Instruction, College of Education
Long Island University, C. W. Post Campus


Sponsored by the Teaching and Learning Initiative (TLI) Instructional Innovation Grant at Long Island University, the Conference of Elementary-Secondary Teaching & Learning (CESTL) is a semi-annual one-day conference on teaching and learning at both the elementary and secondary school level. Organized by Dr. Dengting Boyanton in the Curriculum & Instruction Department, CESTL is held on the Saturday immediately preceding the final exam week in the fall and spring semesters. Unlike traditional conferences, CESTL is student-centered and it strives to provide the best platform for students to exchange their research findings and discoveries on teaching and learning. It is a conference of the students, for the students, and by the students.

Each semester, all students taking the Educational Psychology courses offered by Dr. Dengting Boyanton will investigate a research topic of their own choice throughout the semester. They will then present their research findings at CESTL. Student presentations at previous CESTLs have covered a wide range of topics related to educational psychology including motivation, peer relationship, learning environment, parenting, learning disabilities, race and learning, and others topics. As a showcase of student research and a means of using research to enhance student learning, CESTL encourages students to nurture and pursue their own research interests with the goal of becoming active lifelong learners.

Additionally, CESTL provides other enriching programs including 1) a keynote address, 2) a professors’ panel on teaching & learning, 3) a K-12 teachers/ students panel on teaching & learning, and 4) cultural events. Distinguished scholars, experienced educators, and outstanding students will be invited to share their perspectives at CESTL. Also, CESTL serves as a forum for cultural events, such as music or dance, performed by the students. These cultural events not only expose students to different cultures, but also provide a stage for students to express their talents or share their culture.


Traditional classroom instruction has been one-way (from teacher to student) and dominated by teachers’ lecturing for decades (Gorsky, et al., 2006). Evidence strongly suggests that students do not take this learning format seriously (Bonwell & Eison, 1991) and it hinders internalization (inertia), understanding (fantasia), and recognition (amnesia) of course material (Shulman, 1999).

CESTL was developed on the basis of established principles of powerful learning. First, learning is more powerful when the process is active rather than passive (Piaget, 1952). Learning is more effective when students actively explore, observe, and discover in the real world rather than passively listening to lectures by teachers in the classroom (Bruner, 1983). By having students select a research topic of their own interest and search for answers, CESTL shifts the students’ role from a passive information-taker to an active information-seeker. As Dewey (1916) observed, the purpose of education is not about memorizing, passing tests, or obtaining degrees, but about understanding, inquiring, and critical thinking.

Secondly, learning is more powerful when one is able to teach what he has learned to others (Goodlad & Hirst, 1989; Stader & Gagnepain, 2000). Teaching others increases one’s analytical skills, enhances one’s interest in the subject, and deepens one’s understanding of the topic (Foot, Shute, & Morgan, 1990). Through this dynamic “learn to teach, teach to learn” interplay at CESTL, students are not just teaching others about their own work, but also are learning themselves through teaching. Thus, CESTL offers a new perspective on teaching and learning.

Thirdly, learning is more powerful when the expectations are high (Vygotsky, 1978; Good & Brophy, 1995). Requiring students to produce high-quality work raises the standards. Instead of doing it as a class project which will be read only by the instructor, students are informed that their work must be sufficiently professional to be presented to the public at large. This high standard enhances students’ motivation to learn, to work harder, and to strive for excellence.

Fourthly, learning is more powerful when students are empowered as learners (Bandura, 1986). CESTL shifts the traditional “learner” role by placing students in the role of “expert” on a given subject. This student-centered pedagogy of CESTL highly values students’ perspectives and discoveries. Furthermore, the CESTL committee, a predominantly student committee which oversees the event, empowers students by giving them leadership of this event. Taking the role of an “expert” or a “leader” creates a strong sense of achievement in students. This sense of achievement will greatly influence their motivation and confidence to learn and teach when facing new challenges in the future (Covington, 1985; Glasser, 1990).

Lastly, learning is more powerful when the learning task is meaningful (Caine & Caine, 1997). CESTL creates a meaningful learning task by providing authentic problems which students are able to investigate in the real context (Duffy & Cunnningham, 1996). Also, CESTL intends to create a knowledge-sharing community among the LIU education students. CESTL is an opportunity for the students to make a difference in the society by sharing their knowledge with the public. When students are able to contribute their knowledge to the society, learning becomes more meaningful.


The CESTL Committee application forms will be distributed to all student presenters after each CESTL. Four to six applicants will be selected as committee members based on the following criteria: 1) passion for the conference, 2) ability to work hard and be responsible, 3) strong oral/written communication skills; and 4) a good personality. This new CESTL Committee will be formed immediately following each CESTL event. The CESTL Committee will be responsible for coordinating the following CESTL conference including designing the posters/flyers, scheduling, publicizing the event, inviting guest speakers, and set-up/clean-up for the event.

At the beginning of each new semester, Dr. Dengting Boyanton will give her students a brief CESTL orientation and provide them a variety of research topics/questions. All research questions are related to the course content but students are encouraged to construct their own research questions based on their interests. High expectations are stated clearly at the very beginning of the class. Throughout the semester, Dr. Dengting Boyanton will provide eight mini-workshops guiding the students step by step in conducting their research, including: 1) how to choose a research topic, 2) how to form a good research question, 3) how to write a research proposal, 4) how to contact the research site and participants, 5) how to observe in a classroom, 6) how to conduct interviews, 7) how to write up the final paper, and above all, 8) how to deliver a powerful presentation at the CESTL.

In addition to providing guidance on how to conduct research, Dr. Dengting Boyanton will also provide emotional support and encouragement along the way. This is because many students are first- or second-year undergraduates or graduates who “have never done this before” or “have no idea where to start.” Dr. Dengting Boyanton will help students overcome difficult issues such as motivation, confidence, anxiety, stress, and fear of public speaking. She will provide constructive feedback about their work (e.g., “Be more specific in describing students’ behavior”) as well as encouragement (e.g., “Keep up with the great work!”) on weekly basis. Students will constantly work and rework on their research project, make gradual progresses, and gain confidence little by little.

A third task is the coordination of the CESTL itself, which will primarily be the responsibility of the CESTL Committee in coordination with LIU Conference Services. All committee members will report to Dr. Dengting Boyanton directly.

Lastly, the students will present their research at CESTL. Each student can take any of the three presentation formats: 1) PowerPoint presentation, 2) poster presentation, or 2) panel discussion. Their presentations will be evaluated by other student presenters and the instructor using CESTL Presentation Peer Evaluation Form (See Appendix A). Parents and professors are also encouraged to provide feedback for the students’ presentations.


As a teaching initiative, the expected outcomes of CESTL include: 1) the students’ motivation and interest to learn will be greatly enhanced; 2) the students will work much harder to meet the high expectations and standards and display higher level of involvement in the course/CESTL; 3) the students will discover principles, relationships, patterns, and theories on their own and develop a deeper understanding of teaching and learning; 4) the students will enhance their subject matter knowledge and be better prepared as future teachers; 5) the students will improve their analytical, critical-thinking, problem-solving, and creativity skills; 6) a learning community will be created where all educators/students can discuss and exchange ideas on teaching and learning; 7) students’ social skills, teamwork skills and communication skills (e.g., writing, public speaking, presenting) will be improved; and lastly; 8) students’ self-esteem will be greatly enhanced and they will become much more confident both as learners and future educators; and 9) CESTL will help students create linkages between reflective inquiry and actual classroom practice. These enhanced skills will not only assist them in succeeding in future courses, but also in the real world where such skills are crucial and sought-after.

As part of a research project conducted by Dr. Dengting Boyantonon classroom learning, the CESTL outcomes will be presented in professional conferences and meetings such as annual American Educational Research Association conferences and American Psychological Association conventions. A summary of the students’ evaluation will also be disseminated electronically within the School of Education as well as the broader LIU community by Ms. Rita Langdon, Associate Provost/Director of Public Relations.

Future of the CESTL

Currently, CESTL is still in its first phase of a long-term development process. The data obtained through current and previous CESTLs will be used as the basis for future CESTL program redesign. A possible Phase Two CESTL would expand the CESTL to include the whole LIU community focusing on the education students (both undergraduate and graduate students). A Phase Three project would test the efficacy of the CESTL on a larger scale in the state of New York by establishing partnerships with other New York universities and public schools. We would also like to provide workshops or training programs for local K-12 administrators or teachers who are interested in developing similar programs in their schools. It is our goal that CESTL will become a model program in the U.S. on how to create powerful learning in students of all levels through providing student-centered conferences.


Bonwell, C. C., & Eison, J. A. (1991). Active learning: Creating excitement in the
classroom. ASHE-ERIC

Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive
theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Bruner, J. S. (1983). In search of mind: Essays in autobiography. New York: Harper & Row.

Caine, R. N., & Caine, G. (1997). Education on the edge of possibility. Association for
Supervision and Curriculum Development, Alexandria, VA.

Covington, M. V. (1985). Strategic thinking and the fear of failure. In J. W. Segal, S. F.
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Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education: An introduction to the philosophy of education. New York: The Macmillan Company

Duffy, T. M., & Cunningham, D. J. (1996). Constructivism: Implications for the design and delivery of instruction. In D. Jonassen (Ed), Handbook of research for educational communications and technology (pp. 170-198). New York: Macmillan Library Reference

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Glasser, W. (1990). The quality school. New York: Harper & Row.

Gorsky, P., Caspi, A. & Trumperb, R. (2006). Campus-based university students’ use of dialogue. Studies in Higher Education, 31(1), 71-87.

Good, T. L., & Brophy, J. (1995). Contemporary educational psychology (5th Ed.). New York: Longman.

Goodlad, B. H. & Hirst, B. (1989). Peer tutoring: A guide to learning by teaching. Nichols Pub Co.

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Piaget, J. (1952). The origin of intelligence of the child (M. Gabain, Trans.). Glencoe, IL: Free Press (Original book published 1932)

Shulman, L. S. (1999). Taking learning seriously. Change, 31(4), 11-17.

Stader, D., & Gagnepain, F. C. (2000). Mentoring: The power of peers. American Secondary Education, 28(3), 28-32.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1986). Thought and language (A. Kozulin, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. (Original work published 1934)

Future CESTLs:

The 7th CESTL will be held on December 18th, 2010 (Saturday) in Tills Performance Center
The 8th CESTL will be held on April 30th, 2010 (Saturday) in Tills Performance Center

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